Saturday, January 03, 2009

Academia's Top 10 Abuses of 2008

Banned conservative speakers, stolen votes, assaults on religious liberty, gay English classes, and forbidden Thanksgiving & Christmas celebrations

Political correctness ran amuck in our nation's school system this past year, and Young America's Foundation has once again compiled our "best of the worst" academic abuses for 2008. From "free speech zones" to transgendered speakers at military academies, the following list may make you both laugh and cry in the same breath. That probably isn't too surprising, however, since we are talking about academia after all.

1. The free speech "zone." A student at Yuba College in California was sent an ultimatum by the school's president: discontinue handing out gospel booklets or face disciplinary action and possibly expulsion. That's right-gospel booklets. Ryan Dozier, the 20-year-old student, had the audacity to distribute Christian literature without a school permit, which restricts free speech to an hour each Tuesday and Thursday. Yuba College even directs students to where on campus they are allowed to exhibit free speech. In this case, it's the school theater. Campus police threatened to arrest Ryan if he didn't comply with the "free speech zone," oblivious to the fact that students don't need permission to exercise the First Amendment's free speech and religious clauses.

2. Transgendered activists in, pro-life speakers out. Liberal administrators at the University of St. Thomas, a Catholic institution in Minnesota, censored the appearance of prominent pro-life speaker Star Parker because campus officials felt "uncomfortable" and "disturbed" by previous conservative speakers at the school. The University's mission statement claims it values "the pursuit of truth," "diversity," and "meaningful dialogue." Except, not really-or better yet, as long as the said "pursuit" doesn't offend leftist predilections. Meanwhile, within the past year, the same school hosted Al Franken, the bombastic liberal comedian, and Debra Davis, a transgendered activist who believes God is a black lesbian. Realizing they had a public relations disaster on their hands, the head honchos at St. Thomas eventually reversed the ban on Star Parker.

3. A new meaning of Duty, Honor, Country. Cadets at West Point, the nation's foremost military academy, must maintain disciplined, selfless behavior-a precursor to the standards graduates are expected to uphold and reinforce once commissioned as military officers. So how does leftist instructor Judy Rosenstein of the Department of Behavioral Sciences and Leadership encourage cadets to appreciate the military's code of conduct? By hosting a transgendered speaker in class, of course! "Allyson" Robinson, a West Point grad him-, er, herself, switched genders after leaving the Army. Upon returning to West Point as a guest speaker, "Mrs." Robinson found it "worrisome" that the student composition seemed more socially conservative than when "she" was a student. Perhaps West Point's leadership should confine speaker invitations to those whose behavior, if emulated, would not get cadets booted from the academy, much less the Army.

4. 2008's stolen election? Columbia University recently polled students on whether or not they would support the return of the Navy's Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC) to campus after a 40-year absence. Columbia claimed the referendum lost by 39 votes. However, the University inexplicably closed the online poll at different times for different students and discarded more than 1,900 votes out of the 4,905 cast. To boot, the university showcased its "anti-fraud" measures, revealing they caught one person who purportedly voted 276 times! So much for secure, front-end identification control. In the end, 1,502 "valid" NAYs trumped the 1,463 AYEs. Does anyone else smell some anti-military electioneering rats?

5. When English class turns gay. Heads turned when Deerfield High School in Deerfield, Illinois required this book as part of an Advanced Placement English literature course: Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes. The book is laced with graphic sexual content, much of it too inflammatory to print here-although there are "milder" exchanges fit to report, such as one character pleading with his sexual partner to "infect" and "make [him] bleed." Supporters of Angels in America say the book is useful because it depicts "forgiveness, kindness, and compassion," as if HIV-positive sodomy is the best way to promote empathy to minors.

6. You can't pray here! The First Amendment, is it a bestowed right given from above and protected by our government or a meaningless, antiquated concept to be disposed of? If you're the folks at the College of Alameda in California, you'd pick the latter. How else do you explain their threatening to expel a student who prayed on campus? It all started when a student, Kandy Kyriacou, visited her professor to give her a Christmas gift. But when Kandy saw that her teacher was ill, she offered to pray for her. The professor agreed. That's when Derek Piazza, another professor, walked in and freaked out that a prayer-gasp, a prayer-was occurring on college premises. "You can't be doing that in here," Piazza purportedly barked. Kandy received a retroactive "intent to suspend" letter from the administration, claiming that she was guilty of "disruptive or insulting behavior" and "persistent abuse of" college employees. Further infractions would result in expulsion, the letter read.

7. Hey, that feather cap is racist. For decades, kindergarten classes in the Claremont district of California have celebrated Thanksgiving by dressing up as Pilgrims and Indians and sharing a feast. Harmless, eh? Apparently not. In a letter to her daughter's elementary school teacher, Michelle Raheja, an English professor at University of California-Riverside, fumed that such activities are "dehumanizing" and serve as a "racist stereotype." In fact, Ms. Raheja whined that the Thanksgiving costume party is comparable to parading children around as "slaves" and "Jews." The school district capitulated, and now the toddlers are prohibited from wearing "their hand-made bonnets, headdresses and fringed vests."

8. Ho, ho, forgetaboutit! Who's offended by Christmas decorations? All the white liberals who celebrate Kwanza? Must be. Florida Gulf Coast University's president, Wilson Bradshaw, sent holiday festivities packing because he didn't know "how best to observe the season in ways that honor and respect all traditions." Holiday decor wasn't the only thing to go, under Mr. Bradshaw. The school's greeting card contest got tossed as well. Cheer up, says, the President-Christmas merriment was replaced with an "ugly sweater competition." Mr. Bradshaw ultimately had a change of heart, after his embarrassing attempt at censorship became public.

9. Leftist factions compete on who is more multicultural. When eco-fanatics at UC-Berkeley illegally saddled themselves in trees on campus and hurled urine and feces to block the construction of a multi-million dollar athletic facility, probably the last thing they expected was to be called racists. Yet the school's chancellor, Robert Birgeneau, labeled them just that, saying the environmental radicals were impeding the completion of a new athletic facility designed to attract "minority student athletes." Puzzled that the chancellor played the race card on them, the tree dwellers argued that "three of the final four" protestors were "Latinos" and the very first hijacker was a "Native American." One of the Berkeley zealots, who goes by the name "Running Wolf," said that Mr. Birgenaeau attempted "to pit colored against colored."

10. Who knew? Universal health care is actually a non partisan issue. Administrators at the College of St. Catherine in St. Paul, Minnesota-the nation's largest Catholic women's college-unexpectedly blocked young conservatives on campus from hosting Bay Buchanan, a popular conservative commentator and U.S. Treasurer under President Reagan. College officials deemed Ms. Buchanan's remarks on "Feminism and the 2008 Election" too politically charged, citing concerns about the school's tax status. Those same "concerns," mind you, didn't prohibit the school from sponsoring programs that push for universal healthcare and minimum wage increases or hosting Frank Kroncke, an anti-war radical who is reliving the Vietnam days. But Bay Buchanan? Well, she's partisan, according to St. Catherine's administration.

Source (See the original for links)

UK: Big Brother spying on 4-year-old pupils

Schools have installed CCTV cameras and microphones in classrooms to watch and listen to pupils as young as four. The Big Brother-style surveillance is being marketed as a way to identify pupils disrupting lessons when teachers' backs are turned. Classwatch, the firm behind the system, says its devices can be set up to record everything that goes on in a classroom 24 hours a day and used to compile `evidence' of wrongdoing. The equipment is sold with Crown Prosecution Service-approved evidence bags to store material to be used in court cases. The microphones and cameras can be used during lessons and when a classroom is unattended, such as during lunch breaks.

But data protection watchdog the Information Commissioner has warned the surveillance may be illegal and demanded to know why primary and secondary schools are using this kind of sophisticated equipment to watch children. Officials said they would be contacting schools to seek `proper justification' for the equipment's use. Classwatch is set to face further scrutiny over the role of Shadow Children's Minister Tim Loughton, the firm's 30,000 pounds-a-year chairman.

The equipment, which includes ceiling-mounted microphones and cameras and a hard drive recorder housed in a secure cabinet, is operating in around 85 primary and secondary schools and colleges. The systems cost around 3,000 to install in each classroom or can be leased for about 50 pounds per classroom per month. The firm says the devices act as `impartial witnesses' which can provide evidence in disputes and curb bullying and unruly behaviour and protect teachers against false allegations of abuse - plus provide evidence acceptable in court.

The firm also promotes its equipment as an educational tool, allowing `key lessons and class discussions to be recorded for revision, or for pupils who have missed important material or who may need extra help'. Schools are required to inform all parents that microphones and cameras are monitoring their children.

But last night an Information Commissioner's Office spokesman said the system raised `privacy concerns for teachers, students and their parents'. He said the ICO would contact Classwatch and schools using the devices. He added: `The use of microphones to record conversations is deeply intrusive and we will be seeking further clarification on their use in schools and, if necessary, we will issue further guidance to headteachers.'

Martin Johnson, deputy general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, added: `We strongly object to schools or colleges having free rein to use CCTV and microphones, especially in sensitive areas such as classrooms, changing rooms and toilets. `We expect CCTV be used appropriately and not to spy on staff or pupils.'

Classwatch director Andrew Jenkins, who set up the firm with his wife, said he welcomed further discussions with the Information Commissioner. He said Classwatch had tried to guard against accusations of bringing Big Brother into schools. `The system can be turned on and turned off as they wish,' he said. `It is a bit like a video at home. This is not Big Brother. The system is under the control of the teacher.'

Asked whether the company had taken account of the Commissioner's strict rules on workplace monitoring, he said: `Compliance with the Data Protection Act has always been a priority. `Schools are required to ensure they follow protocols which recognise the privacy of pupils and staff. The overwhelming experience has been that pupils feel safer and that teachers feel more in control of their classrooms.'

Last night, Tory frontbencher Mr Loughton insisted there was no conflict between his political role and part-time job. He said: `I am not the Shadow Minister for Schools, I am the Shadow Minister for Children. I don't speak on school security.' He declares his involvement with the firm on the MPs' register of interests and added: `I have never sought to advocate this. I went through this very carefully before I got involved in it and it doesn't conflict with anything I do.'

Labour MP Barry Sheerman, the chairman of the Commons Education Committee, said: `If the Information Commissioner is concerned, we all should be concerned and I think that my committee should look at it when Parliament returns.' A Schools Department spokesman said: `We do not prescribe what schools must do to tackle security.'


Friday, January 02, 2009

New High-School Elective: Put Off College

Like many motivated, focused high-school students, Lillian Kivel had worked hard academically and in community service in hopes that her efforts would win her acceptance into a good college. It did. Trouble was, Ms. Kivel's focus was much less clear when she had to decide which college to attend -- the Boston-area senior had applied to 38 schools because her interests were so varied.

At the suggestion of friends, Ms. Kivel decided to take a gap year -- a year outside of academia between high-school graduation and college matriculation. It wasn't rest and relaxation that Ms. Kivel sought, but rather an opportunity to gain life experience and focus her goals. Gappers, as they're called, typically feel that taking a year off will give them a head start in college -- and life. "I [have] the opportunity to explore my interests, like medicine and China, outside the classroom," she says.

Ms. Kivel eventually decided to attend Harvard College, but deferred entrance until fall 2009. Ms. Kivel lived at home this fall and interned at the Boston branch of Partners of Health, a global health outreach nonprofit. She's also serving as a legislative aide in the Massachusetts Statehouse. And she's auditing at anthropology class at Harvard.

To fill her spring months, Ms. Kivel turned to gap-year consultant Holly Bull, president of Interim Programs, to help her sift through more than 100 different programs in China. Ms. Kivel will live with a host family in Shanghai, study Chinese language, history and culture in a classroom setting, and teach English to children. "I have gained so much by ... becoming more responsible and independent [and] exploring my interests," Ms. Kivel says.

The increased focus, maturity and motivation that gappers obtain -- along with a brief escape from the intense pressure that leaves many high-schoolers burned out -- has led more high-school guidance counselors and college admissions officers to suggest gap years to high achievers and strugglers alike. "Not every 17-year-old is ready to enter college, and a gap year... allows them to be in the real world, do service and approach college much more deliberately," says Karen Giannino, senior associate dean of admission at Colgate College.

Longtime educator Karl Haigler, co-author of "The Gap-Year Advantage," agrees. "We think that there should be more of a focus on success in college, not just on access to college," he says. That's partly what motivated Princeton University to become the first school to formalize a gap- or bridge-year program. It will be launched in the fall of 2009, starting with 20 students and growing to 100. Students will be invited to apply after they have been accepted to the school. The program will send students for a year of social service work in a foreign country. Students won't be charged tuition and will be eligible for financial aid.

Formal gap-year programs typically cost between $10,000 to $20,000, including living expenses, says Ms. Bull. Students can often apply for financial aid through Free Application for Federal Student Aid (, or look for scholarships and individual study-abroad loans through specific programs. There are also community-based programs, like Americorps, where students receive room and board in exchange for service work and a small stipend.

To get the most out of the experience, students should already be accepted into college and defer admission before the gap year begins, says Missy Sanchez, director of college counseling at Woodward Academy, a private school in Atlanta. "They can use the necessary high-school resources for their applications and have something to come back to after their year off," says Ms. Sanchez.

The year should be well-planned and researched to avoid a lot of downtime. "Most students choose to do a smorgasbord of two or three programs through out the year," says Ms. Bull. That was Sabrina Skau's strategy. She spent three months teaching English in a small Costa Rican town. She taught Spanish at her local high school in Portland, Ore., for two months. She spent three months working in a hospital and orphanage in Cordova, Argentina. And she wrapped up the year with a five-week Spanish program in Barcelona. Though Ms. Skau had deferred her admission at University of Rochester, she also reapplied to Brown University and was accepted. She began her freshman year in August. "The gap year prepared me to be much more focused and independent at college because I have already been away on my own," Ms. Skau says.

Students can research many of the 8,000 educational programs, internships and public-service jobs on their own, but many find it daunting. Several private schools across the country, such as Atlanta's Woodward Academy, have begun to hold gap fairs, where vendors come to meet prospective participants. Students from any school can attend. Another option is to hire a gap-year consultant. They typically charge about $2,000 to help research and guide students to reputable programs.

It's important to investigate the program's track record, credibility, supervision, structure and safety, says Mr. Haigler. Get references from at least two past participants and speak to them personally -- don't just settle for email. Finally, check your status for family medical coverage. Insurance policies often don't cover adult-age dependents if they are no longer full-time students, but temporary insurance policies are often available.

Ms. Kivel was able to remain on her parent's insurance policy. She will fund the $12,000 cost of her Shanghai semester from savings from a part-time job and help from her parents. "I'm just thrilled to be taking the year off," she says.


Strike threat after British PE teacher is sacked for wearing trainers to class

A PE teacher who has worn a tracksuit and trainers to school for 30 years has been sacked after the acting headteacher decided he was flouting the dress code. Adrian Swain, 56, was dismissed a week before Christmas because he refused to follow a ban on trainers. The school's local education authority has backed the sacking - claiming teachers 'should not wear clothing children are not allowed to wear themselves'. Now fellow teachers at the comprehensive where Mr Swain has taught for 17 years are threatening to strike if he is not reinstated.

Mr Swain said of his dismissal for wearing the clothes he teaches in: 'I am stunned that in this day and age you can be sacked for wearing the wrong type of shoes. 'I haven't a blot on my character and have suddenly been sacked for something I have always worn.' Mr Swain of Stratford, east London, who has 30 years teaching experience added: 'Children would much rather have a good teacher who wore trainers than a bad one who was dressed like a businessman.

The school dress code was imposed by an acting head teacher, Lorraine Page, at the state comprehensive who has since left.

Mr Swain added: 'Pupils learn best in an atmosphere where they feel comfortable and not in a corporate, office-like setting, so I really don't like the way that education is going.' Mr Swain worked with special needs children, at St Paul's Way Community School in Bow, east London. His colleagues are pressing for a ballot on industrial action in protest at his dismissal. Mr Swain said he had worn tracksuit bottoms and trainers to school throughout his 30-year teaching career without any complaints. Mr Swain, believes he has been victimised as he is a union representative for the National Union of Teachers. He said: 'I was singled out and fired while other staff have regularly worn banned items. 'It is clear that this is not about what I wear or what kind of teacher I am. This is victimisation because I have consistently worked to protect union members against bullying and intimidation. Mr Swain said he has a final appeal against his dismissal next term.

The school's website boasts of its 'excellent' PE facilities which include two gymnasia, a swimming pool, a weight training room and a table tennis hall inside, and two floodlit hard court areas for football, netball and cricket outdoors.

Professor Margaret Talbot OBE of the Association for Physical Education said that she thought the teacher should not have been sacked. She said: 'While teaching, PE teachers obviously need to wear appropriate dress. My personal view is that all teachers should be dressed in a professional manner to go to school. On the other hand I don't think it's a sackable offence.'

A 2006 Ofsted report ranked the 900 pupil comprehensive as 'satisfactory'. Around 80 per cent of the school's pupils are from Bangladeshi families. In one unusual feature of the school's uniform policy, female pupils at the school are allowed to wear the jilbab - an all in one black garment covering the head and body, but not the face.

A spokeswoman for Tower Hamlets Council confirmed that a teacher at St Paul's Way School was dismissed last week for 'continually failing to comply with a reasonable management instruction'. She said: 'Staff in Tower Hamlets schools are expected to set a good example to the students they teach. It's vital that standards are set in terms of appearance and behaviour, and staff are asked not to wear items of clothing that students are not permitted to wear themselves, eg trainers.'

'The decision followed consultation between the school, Tower Hamlets Council and trade unions and the member of staff still has the right of appeal.'Colleagues of a PE teacher sacked for wearing trainers and a tracksuit to school have threatened strike action if he is not reinstated.


Thursday, January 01, 2009

Muslim bigot is made British school inspector

He has objected to carol-singing

A hardline Muslim teacher who caused a furore by denouncing pupils for celebrating Christmas has been made a Government schools inspector. Israr Khan's Ofsted appointment was described by a former colleague as 'absolutely astonishing'.

Mr Khan, now headmaster of an Islamic school, launched into his tirade during a concert rehearsal at Washwood Heath Secondary School in Birmingham in 1996 after the choir including around 40 Muslim youngsters, had sung a number of popular Christmas songs, including carols. He leapt from his seat, yelling: "Who is your God? Why are you saying Jesus and Jesus Christ? God is not your God - it is Allah." As children in the audience began booing and clapping, a number of choir members - both white and Asian - walked out, some in tears.

Mr Khan, a maths teacher, was asked to work from home pending an investigation but there was no disciplinary action. It has been claimed that Washwood Heath school was then a 'hotbed of Islamic fundamentalism'. Rashid Rauf - the airline terror bomb suspect whose extradition is currently being sought from Pakistan - was a pupil there at that time. Mr Khan left Washwood Heath a year later to found the independent Islamic Hamd House Preparatory School in Small Heath, Birmingham, where he is headmaster. Earlier this year, he was appointed as a governor of Anderton Park Primary School, in Sparkbrook, Birmingham.

A former Washwood Heath colleague laughed openly when told of Mr Khan's role as an Ofsted inspector where he has the responsibility for passing or failing schools. He said: "Given the man's history, it's absolutely astonishing. It's just the cheek of the man that he's been able to reach that position. He always was an extremely clever man. "He gave me many insights into the Islamic cause and their hatred of the US and the Western World. He had a big support base among some of the Muslim parents. "But there were some very influential, radical elements at Washwood Heath at that time and Israr Khan was very close to all that."

Earlier this year, Anderton Park, where 99.5 per cent of the pupils are Asian, received a dismal Ofsted report which branded its teaching and its achievements as inadequate. One Muslim father, who asked to be known only as Mohammed, said: "As a governor, Mr Khan will be able to exert a great deal of influence over the school and its policies. "By his previous actions, he seems to represent what I would call a hardcore attitude to Islam."

Mr Khan declined to comment about his appointment, waving questions away at his large home in Moseley, Birmingham. An Ofsted spokesman said: "Israr Khan was appointed as an additional inspector via a highly competitive recruitment and selection process. He has undergone all the relevant security checks."


Free-market education

A high-school calculus teacher scored a victory for capitalism and dealt socialized education quite a blow this year. A recent article in USA Today reported that Tom Farber had devised a brilliant, free-market way of funding the tests that he felt were necessary for his students.

Mr. Farber was faced with a dilemma felt by teachers across the country. His supplies budget was cut by the district, which meant that if Farber wanted to give his students the much-needed practice tests that would prepare them for later placement tests, he would have to find funding elsewhere. Many teachers either would have paid for the additional expense out of their own pocket or deprived their students of the requisite practice tests. Farber estimated that, had he paid for the copies out of pocket, it would have cost him almost $200.

Unwilling to shortchange his students or to pay for the copies himself, the visionary teacher found an alternative: he began to sell advertisements on his test papers. According to USA Today, he charged $10 per ad on quizzes, $20 per ad on chapter tests, and $30 per ad on semester finals. Within a few days he had over 75 email requests for ads! Farber has already generated $350 in ad revenue. The article also states that approximately 67% of the ad sales are inspirational messages, paid for by parents. Others are from local businesses.

This free-market solution enables parents to voluntarily provide additional funding in order to help their children. It also allows local businesses to benefit from targeted advertising. Local businesses may also benefit from an improved labor pool due to the improved education students receive from their funding. It is an excellent example of parties participating in voluntary exchange and everyone benefiting: students benefit from the improved education; parents are pleased by improved placement scores; and businesses benefit from a better labor force and more customers. This is capitalism at its finest.

Unfortunately, we live in a time when the knee-jerk reaction is to demand more funding from the government. Mr. Farber has demonstrated that free-market solutions are superior to any that can be provided by government. This also provides a prime example of one of the fundamental flaws with government funding. Government-funded organizations inherently rely on thinking in which decisions are made from the top and imposed on the lower levels. This stifles the ingenuity of the people who have firsthand experience actually doing the work and defers decision making to bureaucrats and committees.

If we are to believe that monopolies are bad because they do not have the best interest of the consumer in mind and have little incentive to improve their product, then why are we to believe that a government monopoly over schooling is good?

It can be reasonably argued that this particular government monopoly is worse than private-sector monopolies, because citizens are forced to pay even if they do not consume the service. To illustrate the point, consider a hypothetical shoe monopoly. If the government declared that shoes are a practical necessity of life in this country, and that there are people unable to afford the best-quality shoes available in the free market, would we then support a "shoe tax" to allow the government to manufacture and distribute shoes free of charge to everyone?

In this scenario, citizens could still purchase shoes from other providers but would be forced to pay their share of the "shoe tax" as well. Since the citizens are already paying for these government shoes (through taxation), the demand for private-sector-produced shoes would be fairly low. Since the demand for privately made shoes would be low, those who desire better shoes would be forced to pay prices that are far higher than those that existed prior to government shoes. The citizens, seeing the high price tag on privately made shoes, would then conclude that they really do need government shoes because only an elite few could afford private shoes.

The success of Farber's experiment shows that, contrary to the common contention, parents would not be forced to shoulder the cost of educating their children alone in the absence of public schools. This is concrete proof that businesses do understand the importance of well-educated students and are willing to provide funding for such a valuable resource. Advertisement revenue is not the only source of funding for schools but it is an important illustration of one of the ways of providing excellent education without extracting funds by force.

Under the current system, everyone is forced to provide funding for schools, regardless of how poor the quality of education provided by those schools. Under a private system, various schools would compete for students and for funding. Both parents and businesspeople would be more willing to devote their resources to the better schools. Students would be the ultimate beneficiaries of such competition.

Many people would agree that the education provided in public schools today is far less than ideal. While there are public schools that provide excellent educations for their students, the costs to taxpayers are too high and the funds are obtained in a highly unethical manner. The lesson to be learned from the success of Farber is that truly private education is plausible and even preferable to the current education provided by the government.


Wednesday, December 31, 2008

British schools too much for British teachers

Negligible disciplinary options means high stress

Teachers are calling in sick at the rate of 15,000 a day. Almost three million working days were lost last year, up from 2.5million in 1999. Some 311,000 teachers took at least one day off.

Tories called the official figures 'very worrying', linking them with mounting bureaucracy and disruptive classroom behaviour.

The Government's school workforce statistics, which cover full and part-time teachers and classroom assistants, show the average number of sick days has risen from 5.1 a head in 1999 to 5.4 in 2007. The overall number of days lost was 2.9million. This equates to almost 15,000 teachers off sick on each school day. The total of 311,770 who took sickness absence is well over half the number working in English schools.

The rising levels of sick leave mean more pupils have to be taught by unfamiliar supply teachers who may not be specialists in the subjects they are teaching.

Tory children's spokesman Michael Gove said the cost of teacher absence could run into hundreds of millions. Schools have to pay œ103 to œ210 a day for supply teachers.

Teaching unions said stress was 'endemic' to teaching in Britain. NUT acting general secretary Christine Blower said: 'Given the enormous pressures teachers are under, it is remarkable they have so little sick leave. 'The vast majority of teachers, sometimes unwisely, go into school, even though they may be ill, because of their commitment to the children. 'Unfortunately, too much stress is endemic to the job and it is the responsibility of not only the Government but the Conservative Party and the Liberal Democrats to explore ways of reducing the excessive numbers of initiatives faced weekly by schools.'

Despite record education spending under Labour, teaching vacancies have risen by a quarter in the past year - with four in ten new teachers quitting within a year. Critics say they are weighed down with too many initiatives, too much form-filling and too much bad behaviour.

Mr Gove said: 'It's very worrying that the number of sick days has risen so dramatically. 'The Government needs to investigate the reasons so we can make sure there is as much stability as possible in every child's education.'

According to the General Teaching Council for England, there are 465,672 registered teachers currently working in England's schools. The figure does not include classroom assistants. The highest sickness rate was in London, where 50,840 full and part-time teachers took leave. The lowest rate was in the North East of England, with 13,360 teachers taking sickness absence.

Mark Wallace, from the TaxPayers' Alliance, said last night: 'Taxpayers and pupils are the real victims of this epidemic. Teachers clearly need firmer rules and better management to both reduce stress and stop people getting away with taking sickies.'

But the Department for Children, Schools and Families said: 'Teacher sickness levels remain low and stable and well within industry norms. 'Of course, teaching is an incredibly rewarding but also very challenging role and we have worked hard to reduce the pressures on teachers. 'We have employed record numbers of support staff, given teachers a half-day a week outside the classroom to plan and prepare lessons, given teachers the full support of the law in dealing with unruly pupils and removed admin tasks from the list of activities which they can be asked to do.'

A spokesman for the largest teaching union, the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, said: 'Teachers are highly dedicated to their jobs and to the children they teach. 'We would question the release of these statistics if their intended purpose is to seek to undermine or call into question the hard work of teachers, who on a daily basis raise attainment and help children reach their full potential.'


Fake teacher? No problem in the Australian State of Victoria

Your legion of highly-paid bureaucrats will protect you (NOT). And when you do get found out only a slap on the wrist awaits you

THE state education watchdog has been rapped over the knuckles for failing to uncover a fake teacher working at a Melbourne primary school. The Victorian Institute of Teaching registered Renai Brochard, despite conflicting birth dates and signatures on her paperwork. Brochard, 41, was given a suspended jail term for stealing the identity of South Australian teacher Ginetta Rossi, her husband's former wife. She used the name to gain registration in Victoria and taught for several months last year at Melbourne Montessori School's Caulfield campus.

Brochard was exposed only after Ms Rossi tried to renew her teaching status with SA education authorities. It is believed Brochard is now working in a childcare job in Adelaide.

A recent institute of teaching disciplinary hearing heard Brochard was paid an annual salary of $58,828 at Melbourne Montessori. She misspelt Ms Rossi's first name on some registration documents and had whited out her name and replaced it with Ms Rossi's on her birth certificate, the hearing was told.

The Montessori principal approved Brochard's birth and marriage certificates, although not authorised to do so, the institute panel found. In its decision, the panel, headed by Susan Halliday, said thorough scrutiny and cross-referencing of all paperwork by the institute would have revealed the discrepancies. The panel said the institute had tightened checking procedures, but it recommended staff receive more training. The fraud was the first case of its kind to go before an institute of teaching hearing.

Brochard was convicted at Moorabbin Magistrates' Court on April 17 on charges of deception and making a false document. She was given a three-month jail sentence, suspended for 12 months.


Tuesday, December 30, 2008

British schools reject assistance from parents

New theory-based and union-supported guidance discourages parents from going on school trips. For some schools it may mean no trips at all. But having parents present might dilute that wonderful CONTROL that Leftists get off on

Imagine the scenario. You're a mother who has volunteered to accompany your seven-year-old son's class on a trip to the Science Museum in west London and are in charge of a group of five boys, including your son. On the journey home, there's a problem. As you are waiting to board the Tube, the fire alarm sounds and there is an order to evacuate the station. What do you do? According to new government health and safety guidelines, there's a risk you'll snatch up your son and make a dash for the nearest emergency exit, neglecting the four other boys in the process. As a spokesman for the Department for Children, Families and Schools put it: "There is the potential for divided interest in the case of an emergency." By contrast, a teacher would try to look after the entire group.

Understandably, parents are outraged that they can no longer accompany their own children on school trips. "I loved taking my eldest daughter and her class on a school trip because it gave me a chance to see how the children interact together," says Tessa Park, a mother of two, who has accompanied class excursions to the London Aquarium in the past. Now, with parental involvement being scaled back, her volunteering days are in jeopardy. Just as ministers have published a manifesto calling for more "learning outside the classroom", Park has received a letter dissuading mothers and fathers from accompanying their own children on trips. "It's a very odd attitude," she says. "I'd like to see the evidence to support this claim that schoolchildren are less safe when they are looked after by a parent. Quite frankly, in the event of an accident I would feel safer if my children were in the hands of a mum who knows their names."

Park, whose children attend Bute House prep school in west London, is not alone in believing the government has taken a wrong turn. Another parent at the same school, who wished to remain anonymous, is even more vociferous. "Statistically, how many pupils have died on school trips because a parent has saved their child first?" she asks. "There is a greater chance of my child dying crossing Hammersmith Broadway. There are quite a few parents who think this is just the nanny state gone mad." She added: "Parents have been going on school trips since time immemorial. If you are a responsible parent, you will manage. This isn't white-water rafting down the Zambezi; it's a walk to a museum."

Bute House was one of several prep schools that attended a course on the issue run earlier this year by Roger Smith, a consultant who is a member of the government's outdoor education advisers panel. So far Smith has briefed about 600 private schools on the updated guidance. He says that while it is not yet statutory, it is already considered "best practice" not to include parents as supervisors on trips involving their children. "If a trip did go pear-shaped, a school would be asked why it had not complied with this advice," he says. Indeed, the consequences can be severe.

Fines and even manslaughter charges have been brought in the past against schools, councils and teachers who have failed to protect pupils on trips. In 2002 a teacher was jailed for manslaughter after an accident in Cumbria when a boy of 10 drowned in a river. In 2003 Leeds council was fined 30,000 pounds after admitting to flawed safety measures on a trip during which two teenage schoolgirls drowned. The turning point, however, was a tragedy more than a decade ago. In 1993 four sixth-formers died on a canoeing trip in Lyme Bay, in the West Country, in one of Britain's worst canoeing disasters. Peter Kite, the director of the outdoor centre responsible for the trip, was convicted of manslaughter and jailed for three years. After this, one teaching union, the NASUWT, told members to be wary of supervising trips for fear of being sued, and nationally the number of excursions fell drastically.

The union has now changed its stance, but insists that children be accompanied by teachers rather than parents. Longstanding guidelines suggest that one adult should be in charge of six seven-to-nine-year-olds on an outing; the ratio is one adult to three for children aged under five. Chris Keates, general secretary of the union, explains. "We have long had serious reservations about school trips. More and more schools were counting parents in the ratio of adults to children required for a trip, when they should really only be including trained staff. "While parents can be helpful, it can be hard for staff to get them to understand the safety aspects. Schools are taking a risk if they don't use qualified staff." Even on a trip to Kew gardens? To a museum? "On any outing," she says. Keates acknowledges that "some people might say that not counting parents as part of the adult-pupil ratio will jeopardise trips going ahead but we say that if you can't get enough qualified staff to accompany them, you shouldn't be going in the first place". [Translation: "We want more jobs for teachers"]

Several head teachers spoke out against the guidance last week. Dilys Hoffman, head of Beckford primary school, in north London, said: "I don't think it's okay for the government to be interfering with schools' practice. Sometimes it's quite a good thing for a parent to accompany their own child, especially if the child has special needs or behavioural issues. Children love having them there. "Provided parents are given guidance and have had police checks, I don't think it's a problem." Karen Coulthard, head of Berger primary school, in east London, agrees. "Today our nursery children are going to a pantomime and the ratio is 1:1, so we ask for one parent to accompany their child," she said. "It's very important to get the youngest children out and accessing the wealth of resources on our doorstep". For decades parents have helped schools to do just that.


Australia: No standards for teachers?

A PRIMARY school teacher accused of swearing at his Year 5 students and allowing them to chase each other around the classroom with a baseball bat has been given the all-clear to continue working with children.

Victoria's top teaching watchdog has found the man, who is referred to only as RJS, may remain registered as a teacher despite being found guilty of incompetence for failing to adequately supervise students, maintain a safe environment or adequately protect students from harm.

It was alleged the male teacher told Victorian Year 5 students, aged about 11, "Don't f..king swear at me" and asked "Why the f..k are you behaving this way in my class and not other people's classes?" A disciplinary panel was also told he said to one class, "You are a pack of arseholes", The Australian reports.

The teacher, who has been working at a school in NSW, admitted during the Victorian Institute of Teaching hearing that the school was not aware of the disciplinary proceedings against him nor the fact that he had had his previous contract at a Victorian school terminated. The disciplinary panel heard the teacher had problems supervising and controlling students at a school that drew pupils from a disadvantaged and culturally diverse community, who had various behavioural problems.

It was alleged RJS started employment as a casual relief teacher before being hired as a PE and environmental studies teacher in May 2006. Soon afterwards, his colleagues complained about his lack of supervision of students. The panel heard this included incidents where the teacher permitted a Year 5 student to climb over a tennis court fence, failed to take action after a fight between two pupils, allowed students to wander off and did not stop Year 3 pupils pushing and shoving while in his class.

The panel was told the teacher allowed Year 5 students to engage in wrestling in class. He said he was showing his pupils the difference between fake television wrestling and real wrestling at the Commonwealth Games. The school's principal told the panel she had concerns about the teacher when she hired him.


Monday, December 29, 2008

Obama Picks a Moderate on Education

The president will ultimately decide whether to take on the teachers' unions.

Barack Obama picked Arne Duncan only partly for his skills on the basketball court. As secretary of education, he will be running one of the administration's most important finesse games. The CEO of the Chicago public schools and the ultimate diplomat, Mr. Duncan rises to the rim at a moment when teachers unions are, for the first time, facing opposition within the Democratic Party from young idealists who favor education reform. They want to recapture what should always have been a natural issue for Democrats: helping underprivileged kids get out of failing public schools.

Considering the reviews from the right and the left, you might be confused about whether Mr. Duncan is a signal that Mr. Obama's administration is lining up behind the reformers or supporting the status quo. Washington, D.C., schools Chancellor (and _ber reformer) Michelle Rhee endorsed the pick, as did President Bush's Education Secretary, Margaret Spellings. But Mr. Duncan also has fans among traditional Democrats, whose main interest is keeping the teachers unions happy. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi applauded the choice, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid promised that he would enjoy a speedy confirmation.

So what should we make of Mr. Duncan? One promising clue comes from a group called Democrats for Education Reform, part of the growing voice for reform in the party. DFER is known to cheer Democrats brave enough to support charter schools and other methods of extending options to parents. Joe Williams, the group's executive director, predicted that Mr. Duncan will help break the "ideological and political gridlock to promote new, innovative and experimental ideas."

In Chicago, Mr. Duncan is credited with laying out plans to close 100 underperforming public schools. Fans also note that he helped raise the cap on charter schools to 30 from 15. But his record is short of miraculous. Why have a cap on charter schools at all? And the teachers unions extracted plenty of concessions, including a ban on new charters operating multiple campuses.

Mr. Duncan is certainly no bomb thrower. His role instead will be to harness the entrepreneurial spirit of young idealists in the party, like DFER and the tens of thousands of young people who join Teach For America each year. This group, which continues to attract highly skilled young people, is fast creating the new Democratic elite in the education arena while challenging the education establishment.

At forums during the Democratic National Convention in Denver, several big-city mayors lined up with reform principles against union demands. Cory Booker of Newark, N.J., said that "As Democrats we have been wrong on education, and it's time to get it right." Washington, D.C.'s Adrian Fenty, a strong backer of Ms. Rhee's effort to negotiate tough terms with the unions, remarked that the politics of school reform are changing fast. At one DFER event last year, Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. used the word "monopoly" -- a major affront to teachers unions -- to describe failing schools. James Clyburn of South Carolina, the third ranking Democrat in the House, is another important convert to the idea of more parental choice in education.

It's all a bit delicate, which makes Mr. Duncan Mr. Obama's man for a good reason. He's known for a flexibility that allows him to float between the traditional Democratic strongholds and the new wave of reformers in the party. With proper implementation, Mr. Obama could accomplish on education reform what President Bill Clinton did for welfare reform -- taking a previously Republican issue and transforming it from within the left.

But unions aren't about to slink off into the sunset. If they're losing some of their clout at the national level, they maintain their grip locally. In many places, teachers angle to usurp the language of the reformers while pushing their own agenda. Thus "merit pay" has been twisted into a system that bears little resemblance to the original concept of paying teachers for teaching kids successfully. Instead, it has become pay-for-credential, offering salary bumps for continuing education and other qualifications, with no anchor to proven results in the classroom.

Mr. Duncan is a reformer at heart, if one who works collegially within the system. But in the end, much will depend on his boss. Whether Mr. Obama is an artful fence walker or a real agent of change -- on schools or anything else -- is a mystery the coming year may finally clear up.


Peek inside Britain's schools and shudder

If you want to know how bad the future will be, take a look at our schools, and shudder. We know that they are nurseries of ignorance, which is why we have to import disciplined, hard-working, competent young Poles to do so much of the work in this country. We should also be concerned that they are places of fear and violence, where authority is nothing but a joke.

The police have admitted (under Freedom of Information laws) that they were called to violent incidents at least 7,000 times in English schools last year. Since FoI disclosures are about the only Government statistics we can trust, I think we should take this seriously, though - since not all police forces replied - the figure is probably much higher. There is no reason to think that things are much better in Scotland or Wales.

The Sixties revolution, which destroyed the authority of parents and teachers alike, will soon reach its long-cherished goal. Everything stuffy, traditional, repressive, old-fashioned and boring has been swept away in the world of the young. They are all free now. The trouble is that they do not know how to be free, because they have also been taught that morals are `judgmental', religion is `outdated' and that adults are just obsolete ex-teenagers groping their way to the grave, a nuisance to be ignored or violently shoved aside.

They have discovered that the law is not just feeble (though it is) but that it frequently punishes those who try to uphold what used to be the rules of civilisation. And that, while we now have armed policemen licensed to kill virtually at will, our authorities recoil in horror at the very idea of an adult smacking a child. Listen to this slightly edited account of a day in a supposedly reputable school in a prosperous and middle-class area of one of the Home Counties. It is written by a highly experienced teacher, returning to work after a few years away.
`The class turned up totally out of control... it was similar to controlling a riot ... it took about 15 minutes to sit them down and make them do some work. `A boy in the front row turned his back on me and decided that he would try to wind the class back up into a frenzy, by calling out, waving his arms and by completely disregarding my presence. 'I thought he was going to mount the desks in front of him and cause other pupils - or himself - some damage. I had no intention of smacking him, but to restrain him from his own actions I went to grab him.'

The result of this was that the teacher concerned was accused, by another pupil, of the heinous crime of `smacking'. Thanks to this, the person involved has given up teaching and is - quite reasonably - worried in case the Useless Police and the CPS are called in and mount one of the zealous life-ruining prosecutions of innocent teachers that they so much enjoy.

Now, listen carefully, to see if you can hear any Sixties liberals admitting that they were wrong to dismantle adult authority. And listen even more carefully to see if you can discover a `Conservative' politician with the courage to say that this must be put right, that marriage is miles better than non-marriage, that a man without a conscience is wilder than any beast, that fathers should be respected, that parents must be allowed to smack, that teachers should be able to cane.

All you will hear is silence, mingled with the sound of boots kicking a human head as if it were a football, the head of another poor fool who tried to stand up for what was right, and thought he could appeal to the better natures of people who have been brought up feral, and have no better natures.


Australia: Reprieve for "old" maths in the State of NSW

The "old" syllabus is why NSW students learn more than kids in other States

The NSW Government will delay introduction of a long-awaited new syllabus for Higher School Certificate mathematics courses to avoid confusing schools with further changes when a national curriculum is introduced. The new courses were to be taught to year 11 students from 2010. It is about 30 years since the senior maths curriculum has been reviewed.

The Minister for Education, Verity Firth, has asked the Board of Studies to delay the new documents to avoid complicating the national curriculum agenda. "In light of the current work on the national curriculum, the minister has asked the Board of Studies to complete initial work on the senior maths syllabus but to delay implementation while monitoring the progress of the national curriculum," a spokeswoman said. "This is to avoid confusion for students, teachers and parents."

The NSW Board of Studies said it would meet on February 17 to discuss the status of the new HSC maths courses in the context of a national curriculum.

Representatives of the school-resources publishing industry contacted The Sun-Herald about the delay. A maths editor said book sellers who relied on income from the sale of syllabus documents were concerned.


Sunday, December 28, 2008

Teacher criticises British 'can't touch' culture after being throttled by pupil as colleagues looked on

A teacher who won 250,000 pounds compensation after a pupil tried to strangle him has criticised a 'can't touch' culture in schools after other staff initially refused to intervene. Colin Adams, 50, was attacked by a 12- year- old boy, who knocked him to the floor before punching and kicking him, and grabbing his neck. But despite other teachers yelling at the boy to stop, no one stepped in to help. Mr Adams's ordeal ended only after another teacher eventually came to his aid by forcing the boy's thumbs back to release his hold. Later, the unnamed teacher admitted to Mr Adams that he was afraid the boy, who cannot be named for legal reasons, would accuse him of assault.

It later emerged the boy had a history of violence, having previously attacked pupils and a security guard at a library opposite Kingsford Community School in East London. However, he was not properly disciplined over the assaults and staff were not warned about his past.

Mr Adams yesterday criticised Government-backed 'inclusion' policies, which he claimed had led to pupils with severe behavioural problems being taught in schools where staff are not trained to cope with them. His comments come only days after figures released under the Freedom of Information Act revealed police were called to schools 10,000 times last year to deal with violent incidents.

Mr Adams's attacker was expelled after the assault in 2004 and given a referral order by the courts, which involved him being supervised for six months. It is rumoured he was sent on a holiday as 'a reward' for completing it.

As a result of the attack, which lasted for several minutes, Mr Adams, of Ockendon, Essex, was forced to give up work after suffering severe stress and back problems. His distress was further compounded by a lengthy court battle to win compensation, charted by his wife Sharon, 47, in a diary she started after the assault. Four-and-a-half years later, he secured 250,000 in an out-of-court settlement from Newham Council.

Writing in her diary, Mrs Adams said the boy had been misbehaving in another teacher's class and Mr Adams, as head of department, had gone to his aid. He ordered the boy to leave but the pupil refused. Mr Adams then left the room and was attacked by the boy from behind. She wrote: 'He came around to find the boy strangling him. The teachers told the boy to let go, but he did not. 'Teachers are very wary of touching children these days as children all know their rights and they can take a teacher to court. 'It only came to an end when a male teacher grabbed hold of one of the boy's thumbs and caused him pain and made the boy let go. 'This teacher didn't want to admit what he'd done for fear of being accused of assault.

'The police informed the school they could have kicked the boy in his back to make him let go, but I am not sure there is any teacher anywhere who would be willing to do that for fear of repercussions.' Mr Adams, who has two grown-up children, added: 'The whole thing has left a bitter taste. We are trying our best to move forward but it's a slow process.'

A Newham Council spokesman said: 'Our staff have the right to work without fear of assault or harassment. 'In this particular case, an appropriate financial settlement was agreed following advice from our insurers, which was based on Mr Adams's loss of salary, future loss of earnings and damages for the injury he suffered.'


University of Calgary Pro-Life Students Victorious - Administration Backs Down from Arrest Threats

University of Calgary officials have not followed through on their threats to arrest Campus Pro-Life students for erecting the Genocide Awareness Project (GAP) display on campus grounds this week. s past Wednesday and Thursday pro-life students at the university had set up the GAP display, which includes graphic images of abortions and comparisons between abortion and past genocides. In the weeks leading up to the display, however, the university had threatened the students with arrest, suspension, expulsion, and other censures, if they did not agree either to turn the signs inwards, so that they could not be seen by passersby, or not to erect the display at all.

Leah Hallman, president of Campus Pro-Life, told that she sees the fact that the university backed away from its threats to arrest the students as only a partial victory. The university, she said, may still be planning on taking legal action against the students who were present at the GAP display site, who had their names recorded by campus security officers. "What the university administration will do is not clear, but I hope the university will continue to allow us to express our pro-life message and will rescind the order to turn the signs inward, especially as we are determined to display the GAP signs in the Spring semester, as we have in previous years," Hallman said. "The most important thing right now," Hallman said "is for people to write to the university to express their support for the right of freedom of expression at the U of C."

"I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it," a statement on Campus Pro-Life's website begins, quoting the French philosopher Voltaire. "These words of Voltaire are being ignored by the University of Calgary and we, their own students and the victims of their oppression, wish to expose their censorship, intimidation, and bully-tactics. "We implore our fellow Canadians-who may disapprove of what we say but who will defend our right to say it-to support our rights to free speech, to communicate their disagreement to U of C, and to withdraw support from the university until U of C upholds academic freedom."